The IASE is a national voluntary organisation which was established in February 1994 with the aim of promoting and developing supported employment (SE) at a national level. Currently it is the representative voice of over 500 members in Ireland, who in turn are working with over 5000 individuals who are availing of the supported employment programme. IASE’s mission is to promote best practice in supported employment for people with disabilities in Ireland.
In 2003 the IASE was successful in securing core funding awarded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. With this funding the IASE was in a position to employ a full-time Development Officer, Sarah Togher. It was identified that one of Sarah’s key tasks would be to develop a strategy plan for the IASE. This process commenced in November 2004 with extensive consultation involving people with disabilities, members of the IASE, trade unions, employer organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations. As a result of this research, the IASE Five-Year Strategic Plan 2005-2010 was developed and officially launched on 5 October 2005, by Noel Ahern TD, Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in the Mansion House, Dublin.
For the first time in its history, a strategic plan was developed and launched by the Irish Association of Supported Employment (IASE). The purpose of this plan was to look at how best to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Ireland. The aim of this research was to develop a workable plan that will contribute towards the realisation of a fully coordinated, integrated and effective value-for-money service for people with disabilities who are seeking the opportunity and indeed their right to work. The priority areas identified can be broken down under several headings:
Marketing supported employment
There is a need to familiarise the general public about what SE has to offer. It is hoped this will be carried out through a nationwide media programme, e.g. ‘The Late Late Show’ or ‘Nationwide’.
- To develop networks and work closely with relevant agencies e.g. ADM, DCRGA, DETE, FÁS, HSE, LES, trade unions and employer organisations to increase cooperation and synergy among agencies and NGOs.
- To increase membership of the IASE to raise the national profile.
- To develop a Supported Employment Employers Network to increase awareness among employers, which in turn it is hoped will increase the number of employers employing people with disabilities through SE.
Aims of IASE Policy
- To formalise a lobbying strategy for the IASE to raise awareness among politicians regarding gaps in the SE programme and the difficulties faced at local, regional, national and EU level. It is hoped that this Strategic Plan will influence national policy in addressing gaps, improve services and develop areas of cooperation.
- To recognise that while there is currently a need to import labour from other countries, there is also a skilled untapped Irish labour supply among the number of Irish people with disabilities interested in employment.
- To ensure the 3% quota in public services is implemented.
- To encourage the government to review the current process of issuing medical cards to people with disabilities, as currently it is often not financially viable for someone with a disability with high medication requirements to work.
- To encourage the DSFA to increase the amount of earnings allowable to a person in receipt of a disability payment and adjust it in accordance with the adjustments in the minimum wage rate.
- To source funding to participate in a structured exchange to examine/research models of good practices, standards and procedures adopted in other member states to ensure that the highest standards are maintained and carried out in Ireland.
- It would also be the intention to share the Irish experience in SE with the newer member states in the EU to assist them to promote and develop best practice in their countries.
Training and education
More structured training to increase skills in service personnel.
New research to be undertaken to plan and improve service provision nationally.
The success of this Strategic Plan can only have a win-win scenario for our country and its citizens. We will have a more diverse working world with employers benefiting from a skilled and enthusiastic work source. Participating in work will mean a reduction in the incidence of poverty and isolation for people with disabilities. Finally, the wider community benefits through the individual’s personal and monetary input into the local economy.